grace in teaching

This past week I had to give all my ESL students an assessment test. I had all 29 in there at the same time. By Thursday, they were getting extremely hyper and talking to each other during the test. I kept saying “Next person who talks is going to the principal!” But I really didn’t feel like dealing with that, and they knew I wasn’t really going to follow through after the 5th warning. Finally, after I saw two kids talking, I pulled out the infraction forms to write them up. When I took everyone back to their classes, I handed the infractions to the students. One girl had it coming for weeks but the other boy had never given me any problems. He immediately burst into tears and couldn’t control himself. He kept saying he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to talk (really?) or that he just didn’t want another infraction, and he could barely look up at me. It took about 10 minutes to try to talk and calm him down. He knew his parents would be upset, and he was afraid of their anger. At that moment, I looked at him and saw myself instead. That is exactly how I approach the Lord- I get defensive, then I cry because I know I messed up. I can’t look at Him because I feel guilty and know I deserve punishment and discipline, which can be scary. I had him give me back the infraction and I held it in his face. “Do you deserve this?” I asked. He tearfully said yes. “Do you deserve to be punished?” Yes again. “I’m not perfect either, and I make a lot of mistakes,” I told him. “We all deserve punishment. But we get grace from God instead.” I held up the form and ripped it up. “This is grace. You deserve the punishment, but I’m letting you go. I forgive you for not listening to me.”

In that moment, all I could see was a little boy who needed to know he was liked, forgiven, cherished. Plus…I needed to do it for myself. Despite knowing and understanding grace, it’s a huge struggle for me to walk in it. Still, deep down inside I worry it’s not real or that I’m too bad for it- unbelief is my biggest struggle. There’s really no reason for it, other than trying to make up for the years when I didn’t believe I was sinful enough to need grace, or that I am just too hard on myself. This precious moment with this student touched me deeply, and I do pray that it is part of his story. Maybe one day he will look back and remember, and see how strategic and caring God is. And maybe it will continue to sink into my stubborn heart.

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